Wow! What started as an idea just a few short years ago, to draw out and celebrate the very best of the New Zealand wine scene, this year saw close to 9,000 people attend possibly the largest dedicated public wine tasting event series in New Zealand’s history!
This winter we hosted 3,772 people in Auckland, 3,391 in Wellington and 1,818 at the very first Christchurch event. 85 wineries participated, many joining at all three cities. Wineries from Northland to Central Otago, Hawkes Bay to Horowhenua opened an estimated 6,600 bottles of wine for people to taste. Many more thousands of bottles were purchased at the events and a large number of cases were ordered. This resulted in a lot of happy customers through the doors with visitor survey results showing that 95% are keen to attend Winetopia again in 2022. We are totally blown away by this result and so thankful to everyone who came and helped to make Winetopia such a fun and vibrant experience. Sincerely – thank you to all who came to Winetopia!
We were delighted to again be working with our long-term partner (and the only way to fly) Singapore Airlines. Championing excellence in food and wine is at the core of the Singapore Airlines customer offering and their extension of this to support our exposē of the New Zealand wine scene is a highly valued partnership. Three lucky visitors have already been notified that they have won return flights to Singapore (valid for a year after the border opens) as a direct result of attending the events.
We also welcomed new partners to the Winetopia whanau this year. High-end kitchen appliance manufacturer Gaggenau sponsored the Sommelier Sessions in Auckland with fantastic food matches prepared on their appliances by Chef Des Harris and wines served at optimum temperatures straight from Gaggenau Wine Cabinets. In the capital, Sotheby’s International Realty Wellington joined us to sponsor the Masterclasses led by wine writer Joelle Thompson and Stephen Wong MW. We kept hydrated with Fleck premium Sparkling water from Central Otago and every visitor tasted wine from a refined Spiegelau glass which now doubles as their souvenir.
Unsurprisingly wines were the star of the events, from novel varieties that are fairly new to Aotearoa - wines such as Pinot Blanc, Gruner Veltliner and Albarino, right through to prestigious reds like the Church Road TOM, Craggy Range Le Sol and the Escarpment Kupe which all sell for over $100 per bottle. Proving that what you find on a supermarket shelf is just the small tip of the vinous iceberg – most of the 500 or so different wines that appeared at the events are only available direct from the supplier, at restaurants or specialist vintners.
A wonderful logistical feat was the coordination of 101 talks, tastings and masterclasses that took part within the events accommodating over 5,000 people all eager to learn and discover the best of what the NZ wine scene has to offer. 41 presenters included five Masters of Wine led by the original Winetopia guru Bob Campbell, NZ’s only Master Sommelier Cameron Douglas, 11 sommeliers, winemakers, chefs and wine writers. Topics ranged from “The Next Big Thing” to “Destination Pinot”, “What the Fizz” and “The Sweet Unknown.”
We would like to thank actor Cohen Holloway, comedians Ben Hurley and Tom Sainsbury, actress Karen O’Leary, rugby legends Luke Thompson and Casey Laulala, musician Boh Runga and yachtsman Brad Butterworth for joining in on the Winetopia extravaganza and sharing their stories and favourite wines with us at the events as well. Of course when it was time to let our hair down we did just that with live performances by the Jukebox Band, Black & Gold, Diamond Blue and The Panic Band.
You just can’t (or shouldn’t) sample thousands of bottles of premium New Zealand wine without some expertly prepared food. To that end we’d like to thank all of our master artisans who sustained us and also to the wonderful restaurants that led our food and wine matching classes – Charley Noble, Hillside & Apache, Gatherings, Earl, Twenty Seven Steps and Max Gordy of Graze for the Wellington pop-up.
Winetopia in 2021 was also a visual feast. Our wine community is creative to the bone - all have their own unique styles, people and flair. Visitors got to experience this as they moved from region to region throughout the venues. Special mention of Michelle Aplin for her heavenly sculptures displayed throughout the events.
Will Winetopia be back again next year? You bet we will! Planning has already commenced and we promise next year will be bigger, more ambitious and just as much fun.
Auckland, 20 - 21 May 2022
Wellington, 1 - 2 July 2022
Christchurch, 26 - 27 August 2022
Until then you can continue your discovery of great New Zealand Wine by joining our Winetopia Club or shop online at Winetopia Shop. Or when you're out and about buying wine simply stop to think about where it comes from, who makes it, and be brave enough to give something new a go!
Until the next time.
- On behalf of the entire Winetopia Team at Lemongrass Productions.